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The Takeaway: Performing Helped Bruce Springsteen Cope With Severe Depression


By now, you may have heard about the New Yorker profile of Bruce Springsteen in which the now 62-year-old rocker talks about -- gasp! -- suffering from depression. The admission has swiftly been making the media rounds, because I guess it's not every day that a symbol of good old-fashioned American working-class masculinity admits to something as unmanly as mental illness. And depression at that! Oh my. Generally when our rock stars have psychiatric problems, we like it to be something sexy, like drug addiction.

See Also: Bruce Springsteen photo gallery >> 

Of course I don't really believe depression is "unmanly" (or drug addiction sexy!). But while a lot of us may believe and accept that depression is a disease, not a choice or character flaw, there's still a significant faction of folks who believe depression is only for women or wimps.

So good for Springsteen for opening up about it! Although apparently this isn't the first time he's mentioned his struggle, in the New Yorker piece -- a 16,000 word opus of a profile -- Springsteen talks more candidly about it than ever before, including feeling suicidal during the height of his fame in the 1970s and 1980s. He has been seeing a therapist since 1982, but he also credits playing music and performing as a way of "self-medicating" when he felt depressed.

"There's a tremendous finding of the self while also an abandonment of the self at the same time," said Springsteen. "You are free of yourself for those hours; all the voices in your head are gone... There's no room for them. There's one voice, the voice you're speaking in."

Springsteen did not, however, self-medicate in the traditional ways. Friend and guitarist  Steve Van Zandt says in the profile that Springsteen is "the only guy I know-I think the only guy I know at  all-who never did drugs." Springsteen said it's because he was afraid of succumbing to the thread of mental instability that ran through his family, including a father who was depressed and possibly bipolar.

Wednesday Quick Hits: 

  • "One size fits all" drug for brain conditions? A new drug developed at Northwestern University shows early promise as a treatment for Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis. It works by reducing inflammation in the brain, which is a common denominator in these neurological diseases as well as in traumatic brain injury and stroke.

  • Doughnut hole drug savings. In the first six months of 2012, older and disabled Americans saved $687 million--an average of $629 per patient--on prescription drugs in the "doughnut hole," according to the Health and Human Services department.

  • RIP Sherman Hemsley. Best known for playing George Jefferson of The Jeffersons fame, Hemsley died Tuesday at 74; police say cause of death is still unknown.

Photo: Jim Dyson/Getty Images

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